My Recommendation for Your 2017 Resolution List: Know What Is Coming


Resolve not to be caught unaware of evolving technology and process innovations applicable to your legal practice. To that end, have a small internal team conduct ongoing research and report to firm leadership monthly. The research should include legal solutions provided by organizations that are neither law firms nor legal departments. The reports will be brief and intended to ensure your firm is never caught by surprise nor made to look ignorant if a client broaches specific solutions you could be deploying to their benefit. Firm leadership can decide how to keep all lawyers informed. This is not an idea but rather an action plan and should be treated as such. It is okay to sail into iceberg-infested waters as long as at least one sailor is in the crow’s-nest. – Gerry Riskin

I was pleased to be one of more than twenty “experts, lawyers and professionals who work with lawyers” who were invited by AttorneyatWork to respond to the question, “What is the single resolution you recommend for practicing lawyers in 2017?” The responses were published in an AttorneyatWork post entitled “Be It Resolved: Make the New Year Your Year,” published on December 30, 2016.

“CLICK HERE” TO GET THE DOWNLOADABLE PDF: 22 excellent resolutions in a graphically beautiful format (available for a limited time) that cover a range of topics, (e.g., “Know Your Brand,” “Invest in Your Team,” “Learn to Say No”), each with a brief explanatory note – many of which you can put to work immediately.

In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on this and any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

Exciting Breaking News – Transatlantic Merger Creates Global Top 40 Giant: Eversheds Sutherland

On Friday, two major firms I have deeply respected for many years – Eversheds, the global powerhouse based in London, and Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, the exemplary American firm based in Atlanta  – announced a merger that changes the multinational legal game.

I have known and watched both firms for a long time. Mark Wasserman, long-time managing partner of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, has been offering great leadership to that wonderful firm for over a decade. In my view, the hook up with Eversheds is a real coup for both firms — “win-win.”  Given the sophistication of each firm individually, the combination is going to be a formidable competitor wherever it chooses to practice.

An announcement in Bloomberg’s Big Law Business says that “the deal is expected to create a law firm with more than 2,300 lawyers across 31 offices in 29 countries. It would place the firm among the 40 largest in the world by revenue, with more than $900 million, according to 2015 financial figures in The American Lawyer.” The article reports that the firm will launch on Feb. 1, 2017 under the name Eversheds Sutherland, and will specialize in tax, litigation, financial services, insurance, energy, corporate and real estate.

I offer enthusiastic congratulations to both firms and can not wait to watch this story unfold.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on this and any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

A THANK YOU offer for subscribers, friends and clients

[Please note: This offer has now ended. I am delighted that so many took advantage of my offer. I hope you enjoy the read and that it will be helpful to you]


As a personal THANK YOU  to my subscribers and the many lawyers and firms I have served, please accept this offer of a deep discount of my latest book, The Successful Lawyer (Second Edition), at Amazon.

This offer is available from Thursday through Monday (December 15 through 19) ONLY (North American Time).

To obtain discount, use these links:

Cover SLI wrote The Successful Lawyer to help lawyers attract more work, reduce stress, and find more enjoyment in the practice of law. Imagine how honoured I was when Tom Peters (author of In Search of Excellence) described The Successful Lawyer as “Well argued and exceptionally practical.”

If you own the first edition, published (in hard copy) by the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association, exploit the discount to add the Kindle Second Edition to your personal electronic library accessible on all your electronic devices.

(Please note that the Kindle app is available for all devices at no charge from iTunes or directly from Amazon.)

You may also want to take advantage of this offer to add a paperback copy to your firm library.

Global Discount: Please note that both versions of the book can be ordered at equivalent discounted rates from Amazon locations around the globe.

If you are so inclined, please leave your candid feedback on the Amazon website after you have read the book.

Reminder: This discount is available from Thursday through Monday (December 15 through 19, 2016) ONLY (North American Time):

To obtain discount, use these links:

December 2016 Edge International Communiqué now online

Edge Dec 2016The December, 2016 issue of Edge International Communiqué (EIC) is now posted on the Edge International website.

The issue opens with an article by Sam Coupland, “Green Shoots Showing in Australia and New Zealand Legal Markets,” which presents some possible reasons for the recent uptick in profitability in legal markets in those countries, and projects what lies ahead.

In “Talent Retention: A Big Conundrum,” Bithika Anand examines the problems associated with the retention of legal talent in India, where competition for human assets is at an all-time high due to the increase in foreign investment, recent governmental policy changes, and widespread talk of economic liberalization.  The retention problem is not unique to India, of course, and her suggestions on how to manage this issue make valuable reading for managers at all small- and medium-sized firms.

The issue concludes with Mike White’s latest article, “Build Conversational Momentum to Set the Table for the Pitch.” Mike points out that it is not an effective business-promotion tactic to simply introduce yourself to a prospective client and then launch into your promotional pitch. Instead, effective business builders develop a rapport with prospective clients using graduated steps that gradually move toward the goal of presenting particular their specific talents and expertise, and showing how they will benefit the prospective client.

Each month, EIC publishes items of interest to lawyers around the world on various aspects of law-firm strategy, marketing, technology, management, economics, human relations and a host of other topics. In addition to the most recent edition, the EIC site includes a sign-up page for those who are interested in subscribing to EIC, as well as a list of archived articles.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback on both Edge International Communique and Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

Care about your clients? …let them know.

Riskin EmpathyAfter working with thousands of lawyers, I have learned that there is a tremendous gap between the way they perceive their interactions with their clients and how they actually interact.

When I ask lawyers if they care about their clients, the answer is almost always a resounding, “Yes.”

The next question I ask is, “Do your clients know you care?”

That question typically receives a puzzled look and then a response something like, “I think so.”

When I then ask, “Why do you think so?” the answers normally have nothing to do with conveying that the lawyer cares. They typically include how hard the lawyer works for the client, including early hours and late evenings, or reductions in fees that the client often doesn’t even know about.

When I press the point by asking “Have you told your client you care?” the answer is almost always the equal of “No.”

Most lawyers are reluctant to show empathy and caring because they feel it will make them look weak or too personal. Nothing could be further from the truth. Empathy and caring can be demonstrated in an assertive way. For example, a lawyer can say, “I can see how frustrated you are at the actions taken by the other side, and I think you’re very much entitled to those feelings. I think you have every right to pursue your position aggressively and I will do everything in my power to get you what I believe you deserve.” (Qualifications can follow from there to manage expectations, but you get the idea.)

A blog post by Ilina Rejeva entitled How Can Empathy Help You Differentiate Your Law Firm? published at LegalTrek argues that empathy can be a strong differentiator. I agree, and I encourage you to read the article.

Let me know your thoughts on this and any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.


The Successful Lawyer – Now Available on your Computer, Tablet or Smartphone

Screen Shot 2016-11-23 at 12.14.22 PMThe Second Edition of The Successful Lawyer: Powerful Strategies for Transforming Your Practice is now available in both paperback and Kindle versions.

Among the kudos the first edition of this book attracted was one from Tom Peters, the highly acclaimed writer on business-management practice and author of In Search of Excellence, who described The Successful Lawyer as “Well argued and exceptionally practical.”

Sections of the book include: Putting Client-Relations Skills to Work; Increasing Your Value; The Business of Law; and Time and Money. The 48 chapters include: “Meeting Prospective Clients,” “Managing Client Expectations,” “Becoming More Valuable,” “Dealing with Difficult People,” “Harnessing Technology,” “Managing Time” and many others.

The Successful Lawyer is truly a gift that keeps on giving. If you already have a copy on your shelf (which I hope you do!), you may want to consider giving one to other lawyers in your life, to help them attract more work, reduce stress and gain greater enjoyment from their practices. Adding a copy to your office library will benefit your entire firm.

The Kindle version is readable on any electronic device, and you can obtain a Kindle app for any device you have. There’s a link to the app on the Amazon page where the book is listed. You can also order The Successful Lawyer from your favourite independent bookseller.

Law Firms Can’t Afford to Underestimate IT

The most recent issue of PwC UK’s Annual Law Firms’ Survey 2016 is out, and legal journalist Neil Rose has written an excellent and comprehensive summary of its findings.

“The Big Law Firm of the Future: AI, Digital Robots and Blockchain” (Legal Futures, Oct. 24, 2016) contains enough disturbing findings and predictions that it is likely to send most readers to the original report to have a more thorough look.

Rose focuses in particular on one section of the report, entitled “The Firm of the Future.” In it, PwC predicts the evolution of big law through lenses that include “the impact of the global ‘megatrends’ such as the rise in digital technology, shifts in global economic power and changes in demographic/social power which are creating unprecedented levels of disruption.”

Rose invites readers to consider such PwC forecasts as these:

  • The use of predictive analytics and artificial intelligence not only to manage routine law-firm operations “around the clock,” but also to determine which practice areas and even specific clients and cases are worth pursing;
  • The use of digital pricing models incorporating algorithms to set fees and manage profitability;
  • The increased use of automated workflow and document assembly tools;
  • New technologies like Blockchain “that could either enable or entirely displace the role of the lawyer…”

However, Rose points out that the PwC report also found that very few firms are taking a long-term view of how AI and digital support mechanisms will impact their practices. Where there is interest at all, it is primarily related to short-term benefits.

Also alarmingly, Rose reports that the new survey – which analyzed data around such indices as firm income and gender balance among partners at the top 100 firms in the UK – confirmed “downward trends in profit margins in all but the top 10 firms since 2005. Margins in the firms ranked 26 to 50 have fallen from 30% to 23% in that time.”

Rose’s article and the PwC survey itself  provide yet more reminders that law firms of all sizes that want to succeed in the years ahead must start now to pay serious attention to the information technology that is changing the legal landscape.

As always, I invite you  to share thoughts on this and any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.





November Issue of Edge International Communiqué online

Nov 2016 EICThe November, 2016 issue of Edge International Communiqué (EIC) is now posted on the Edge International website.

This issue of EIC begins with a tribute to John Plank, a long-time Edge International colleague and friend who I consider to have been one of the finest speaking and presentation coaches in the world. John passed away in October, and he will be deeply missed.

Neil Oakes contributed the second article in this issue – “Employing Graduate Scholars.” He suggests that by hiring new law-school graduates and training them, rather than looking for people who’ve been out in the field for five or so years, small practices can ultimately save money while developing long-term talent. Neil offers some suggestions on how to find – and keep – new lawyers who have long-term potential.

The issue concludes with “Business Development Skills and the Billable Hour,” by David Cruickshank. David imagines a legal-office environment in which existing management talents are deployed toward encouraging new business-development skills in lawyers rather than toward increasing their billable hours. He reminds readers that in a world where every partner needs to contribute to the bottom line, business-development skills are increasingly essential.

Each month, EIC publishes items of interest to lawyers around the world on various aspects of law-firm strategy, marketing, technology, management, economics, human relations and a host of other topics. In addition to the most recent edition, the EIC site includes a sign-up page for those who are interested in subscribing to EIC, as well as a list of archived articles.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback on both Edge International Communique and Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

In Memory of John Plank, 1943 – 2016

John PlankIt is with great sadness that I must report that John Stewart Plank, our colleague and friend at Edge International, passed away on October 19, 2016 after a valiant fight against illness.

John was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and during the 1970s and 1980s he worked as a director of Shakespearean theatre in Stratford and Peterborough, Ontario. In subsequent years, he deployed his theatre talents and background to assist executives and professionals from a wide range of fields to improve their speaking and presentation skills. It was in that capacity that he acted as a consultant to several principals of Edge International and to a number of our clients. As part of his association with our group, he also crafted a number of eloquent and perennially practical articles for Edge International Communiqué, such as “Charisma: The Quintessential Leadership Skill,” published last May.

I had the privilege of bringing John into law firms where he might work with a dozen lawyers over the course of a day. Despite the fact that at least a few of these individuals would often be gifted communicators already, by the end of the day they would typically be amazed at their own transformations. John had the capacity to use powerful questions and a very light touch to help individuals transform their presentation performances with a speed and magnitude that you had to witness to believe.

We will miss John profoundly. He lives on in what he taught us, and the mindset he instilled in us to strive for excellence in our communications. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Susan and the other members of their family. Additional information may be found on his website.

Taking Your iPad to the Office

Readers of this blog who are fans of Apple products may be interested in a 27-page report entitled The Lawyer’s Guide to a Well-Appointed iPad (Third Edition), recently published by TechnoLawyer. The report is free, and although it is necessary to sign onto the site to download the PDF, doing so also gives you access to other reports and newsletters in the TechnoLawyer library.

The guide opens by arguing against the notion that iPads (and presumably other tablet computers, although only the iPad is mentioned) are suited exclusively to leisure rather than professional activity, and then goes on to discuss how these devices may be most effectively deployed in support of a legal practice. To create the report, seven lawyers – including Neil J. Squillante, the founder and publisher of TechnoLawyer – contributed their collective knowledge and experience to advise readers about choosing the best iPad from among the various models currently on offer, and then selecting the best apps for use in legal contexts. Three of the authors argue for different apps in each of three categories – document management, PDFs, and handwritten note-taking – and the report leaves readers to come to their own conclusions as to which particular apps they may find most useful in their own practices.

As an avid iPad user myself, I would have liked to have seen the authors mention Notability, a note-taking app I find particularly user friendly; in general, however, the report is comprehensive and likely to be useful to anyone who is looking to add an iPad to their legal-technology repertoire – or wants to learn how to use one more effectively.

I invite your thoughts on this and any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.